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This lively pair of portraits was commissioned by John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute. It was probably Bute who introduced Zoffany to the King and Queen, commencing a highly successful period of royal patronage for the artist.In the portrait on the right, Bute’s three younger sons have abandoned their game of archery to go bird-nesting. In the companion picture his three daughters play with pet squirrels. The setting for both portraits is Bute’s country estate, Luton Park, Bedfordshire, which he acquired in 1763. These portraits display both Bute’s progeny and his position as an important landowner.

May 2007